Closing Remarks of Michelle Bachelet Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women at Stakeholders’ Forum on Preventing and eliminating violence against women


Closing Remarks of Michelle Bachelet Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women at Stakeholders' Forum on Preventing and eliminating violence against women. New York, 14 December 2012.

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Good morning,
Distinguished Delegates,
Leaders from Civil Society,
Colleagues and friends,

I am very happy to welcome you to this closing session. I thank you very much for taking the time, during these past few days, to dig deeper into the urgent matter of preventing and ending violence against women and girls.

These preparations are vital for a successful 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Most importantly, they are vital to women and girls around the world who are counting on us and our governments and organizations to deliver and to keep our promises to advance women's empowerment and gender equality.

This is such important work to end violence against women, the value of which we cannot underestimate. I would like to thank all of you, the moderators and panelists, discussants and colleagues, and survivors, who have been sharing your insights and experiences. Your participation and commitment are deeply appreciated.

I know that all of you have been going through this work in a systematic and constructive way, starting yesterday morning with a review of the existing global commitments.

We have a strong normative framework, with legally binding instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and regional conventions and protocols. We also have the NEW resolution of the General Assembly, which demonstrates the priority given to this issue in the international community.

The international legal and policy framework is a key tool for activists who advocate action on violence against women. So far, 187 countries have ratified CEDAW. Now it is important to move towards universal ratification and implementation, and the withdrawal of reservations, as the action of each State sets an example for others.

Today at least 125 countries outlaw domestic violence and there is a large body of legislation on violence against women and girls. There is international agreement on the way forward as articulated in the Beijing Platform for Action. However, we know that the lack of implementation remains a key issue, and so does accountability.

In terms of better accountability and the strengthening of norms, some delegations are advocating a new protocol to CEDAW on ending violence against women.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that everyone expects a reinforcement of norms for effective laws and their accelerated and effective implementation. All national legislation and other action to combat violence against women should be in line with international standards.

We also know that culture and religion can never be invoked to justify violence against women and girls. This was voiced by several delegations in this stakeholder meeting. Wherever I go, I hear this same message from religious leaders and scholars, including, most recently, from Islamic scholars, whom I met in Jakarata, Indonesia.

My friends, we have broken the silence and countries have put many laws, policies and programmes in place. During the past few decades, knowledge on the root causes of violence has increased, and women, men and young people continue to mobilize in huge numbers against violence. Countless organizations and their members work tirelessly to support survivors and, in many countries, policy-makers have taken decisive action.

Momentum IS building and it is building across all sectors of society. But it is not enough, as we cannot go a day without hearing some horrifying cases of continuing violence, which is the most cruel manifestation of discrimination against women.

We all must do better to protect women and prevent this pervasive human rights violation. Governments and leaders must lead by example.

This requires leadership and coordination, and meeting the resource challenge for ending violence against women.

Now is the time for governments to translate international promises into concrete national action.

This is why UN Women launched the COMMIT initiative this year, urging Heads of State and Government to announce initiatives to end violence against girls and women and to showcase these commitments to the public.

I want to thank the Governments that have made commitments so far. I thank Australia, Austria, Belarus, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Korea, Togo and the United States. I encourage other governments to join the COMMIT campaign.

I applaud the efforts being taken to build partnerships and alliances for this cause and to work across all sectors in a comprehensive manner. Partnerships between Governments and officials such as the police and non-governmental organizations are key, but it is also critical to work closely with other stakeholders such as the judiciary, academia, employers and the media, and traditional, religious and community leaders. National policies and action plans can ensure coordination among all actors, and reinforce multiple efforts.

We also know that violence against women comes at a great cost to victims and to society. Therefore, we need better cost-benefit analyses, and standards around costing should be developed at the global level. I am pleased to report that I met recently with the World Bank to move forward together in this area.

Investing in ending violence is cost-effective, and adequate resources must be devoted to efforts to end gender-based violence and to overcome resistance to women's empowerment, both at the national level and in the framework of international cooperation. Resources should also be directed to monitoring and evaluation efforts.

We also know that awareness raising is critical for ending violence against women, and both men and women must be educated on this issue. Awareness-raising efforts must also have a strong focus on the community level, and it is important that States support grassroots leadership, including among traditional, religious and youth leaders and men and women.

And we need resources. Today I call on all you to devote more resources to ending violence against women and girls. I urge you to help us mobilize $100 million a year to fully fund the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. If we come together, we can make it happen.

And let me say this. There is no shortage of good and innovative practices and programmes being initiated by women in cities and communities around the world to respond to this crisis. The shortcomings are not in the vision, voices and the voluminous efforts undertaken by determined women around the world.

No, the shortcomings lie elsewhere—in the lack of political prioritization, and the lack of public spending, to end violence against women and girls. So this is why this session is so important and we will build on your recommendations in moving forward.

We need to listen to the voices of women. There is nothing more real and profound than hearing from women, in this case, women survivors, whose stories inspire all of us to stand up for justice and human rights and to do more to prevent, address and end violence against women and girls. I thank the women who joined us yesterday from Brazil, Colombia, Turkey, Australia and the United States and shared their stories. Stories about the spectrum of violence - from violence related to conflict, to domestic violence in the home, to violence in the name of honour, to child sexual assault to human trafficking and sexual slavery.

We know that we have to move forward guided by the spirit of inclusion and women's full participation. We heard the guiding principle highlighted in the Survivor's Forum “nothing about us, without us. Our work on ending violence against women must be informed by the experience and knowledge of survivors.

And let me say this TO the brave women who testified yesterday. We will do our best to honour your experiences by taking responsive action.

We know that the best way to end violence against women is by preventing it from happening in the first place. That is why your panel yesterday afternoon on tackling the root causes and risk factors to prevent violence against women and girls, and examining what works is so important.

We need to invest far more in this prevention agenda. Countries in every region need good guidance, backed by evidence, on the steps that can really make a positive difference in society.

If violence against women is to be tackled effectively, its root causes have to be addressed. Such root causes include patriarchal culture, sociocultural practices, unequal distribution of power, and women's financial dependence on men, among others. When such root causes are addressed, sustainable solutions to end violence against women can be reached.

Legal and policy frameworks are a starting point to tackle such issues, for instance, laws incriminating domestic violence and banning female genital mutilation. Such laws must be enacted, enforced and implemented. Laws should also be “popularized to all members of the society, including traditional and religious leaders, the police, and the judiciary, among others. Informing all citizens of relevant laws, including through creative means (e.g. musicians, art, etc…) is effective.

Overall, countries need inclusive policies and strategies that cut across sectors to eliminate violence against all women and girls. In examining what works in this session, you put forth inspiring and effective examples and articulated some of the gaps that remain for all of us to tackle together.

We know, for instance, that women who face multiple forms of discrimination are particularly vulnerable to violence, including specific forms such as economic violence and racism. Such groups include women living with disabilities, women living with HIV and AIDS, indigenous women, migrant women, adolescent girls and older women, among others. These groups are too often invisible, and it is crucial that laws and policies have special provisions that take into account their needs and rights.

In particular, close engagement with specific groups of women is needed in policy formulation and implementation, as they are best placed to express their concerns, to advise on effective solutions, and disseminate information. This engagement should not be limited to laws and policies focused on violence against women, but also encompass other areas, including sexual and reproductive health and rights and economic development policies.

We know that we have to end the impunity and the ingrained discrimination against women that allow these crimes to continue. And we know that we have to do a lot more to provide comprehensive services to survivors.

The session on integrated services, as I understand, was eye opening in that you glanced at what is underway in some countries and the work that remains to be done.

In this session, you spoke about new and improved laws and national action plans that provide for safe houses, free hotline services and free health and legal aid to survivors.

The important point is that we have to face this challenge with as little delusion and as much determination as possible. We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work with partners from across society to do what needs to be done. We need to bring much needed services and justice to women and girls.

Next March, when we meet at the Commission on the Status of Women, all of us want a strong outcome, unlike last year when there were no agreed conclusions. As some Ministers have stated, “There were no winners, only losers.

Expectations are high, and they should be. In some countries, up to 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes. A crisis of such proportions deserves nothing less than the highest attention of world leaders. There can be no peace, no progress, when women live under the fear of violence.

This is a responsibility of all of us. The Commission on the Status of Women is a process driven by the UN Member States, with the involvement of civil society. And UN Women and our sister agencies are here to fully support you.

We are preparing well. We have organized this preparatory stakeholder forum. We are drafting clear, comprehensive and authoritative reports for the UN Secretary-General addressing both prevention and multi-sectoral responses and services. The recommendations in these reports form a solid basis for a progressive and forward-looking first draft of the agreed conclusions.

We all agree that the Commission must adopt agreed conclusions, which reinforce existing norms and standards, and which contain concrete actions that can be implemented to prevent and end violence against women and girls in all its forms. It is clear that the agreed conclusions should address the issue of sexual violence in conflict, and provide a building block for the discussion of this issue in the G8 next year.

The CSW should have inclusive participation and create more space for specific groups of women to voice their concerns, including indigenous women and women living in poverty.

We also know that, looking forward to the post-2015 development agenda, ending violence against women should be an important target with appropriate indicators in any goal on achieving gender equality and women's empowerment.

Let us show the will, the determination and let us mobilize greater action and resources to end violence against women. Let us do all we can so that every human being can live free of fear, free of want, in freedom and dignity.

I thank you.